After years of outraged fans, press releases apologizing for bad calls and much debate, Major League Baseball has decided to implement an in depth replay system for the 2014 season. Previously, home runs were the only thing that MLB has left open to review. Now, pretty much everything except balls and strikes will be open to a coach’s challenge.
While I do think replay is good for the game from a justice sense, I don’ t think that replay is ultimately going to fix the problem that Major League Baseball intends to fix—that is, the problem with umpires. Since baseball’s inception, umpires have always gotten a bad rep for blowing calls or making “unfavorable decisions” against your favorite team. When the ump makes a bad call against the home team, you can bet he’s going to hear it. If he makes a good call, it was because the player made a great play or it was what actually happened on the field. Over the past few years especially, umpires have acquired a fortified backbone, whether it’s because of this idea or not, that has led them to eject reasonably communicating managers quickly and justify bad calls. The increased pomposity of umpires is largely more outstanding than in any of the major professional sports. While replay can fix the situations on the field, it can’t fix the umpires making the calls. If replay is being used as a crutch rather than a tool, then Major League Baseball should have some serious concerns going forwards.
In addition to umpires, adding up to four challenges a game plus any number of reviews from the 7th inning on will drastically slow the game down. In a game where a pitch is thrown every 20 seconds and has frequent stoppages of play due to mound visits, pitching changes and batters and pitches taking time to step off the mound or out of the box, instant replay will only draw out the game. A long inning full of these things, especially late in the game, could drag on into eternity if umpires are keen on reviewing any disputed call. Long innings could detract viewer attention from a game that to many already lacks speed and excitement.
In the end, while replay is instituted, Major League Baseball should be properly training its umpires to make better games speed calls and decisions on the field. The human element of umpiring has always been a big element to baseball and has been around for decades. Refining umpires’ skills and attitudes will bring back the essence of the game and help keep baseball players, managers and officials out of the wrong end of the news.